Coffee and coffee-related gifts are hot items this holiday season. Mugs have always been popular choices (especially when stumped for a gift idea), but these days, people are thinking bigger, subtler and tastier.
Never before has there been such an interest in exploring different kinds of beans, methods and roasts, regardless of the age demographic—the National Coffee Association reports that 25% of Americans over 60 years of age consumed at least one cup of gourmet coffee daily in 2013 (up from 19% the year before), while other studies show that younger consumers are drawn to espresso-based beverages—resulting in a cornucopia of possible gifts for the average coffee drinker.
While an excellent drip coffee maker is a dependable choice, there are lots of other choices available. A decent French press can be had for less than $40, and a high-end version is only $75 or so. (Be sure to do your research on a glass carafe versus a stainless steel—some coffee lovers swear by one, some by the other.)
For a truly hip, old-school choice, there’s the moka pot, also known as a stovetop espresso maker, originally invented in Italy by Luigi de Ponti. It’s a two-chamber, manually operated machine, traditionally made of aluminum, that forces steam through the coffee grounds in a simple process. They cost only $15, or no more than $30 if you really want a quality option.
Looking for hip, but more of the new-school variety? Look into a pour over filter or kettle. Making a pour over takes some skill to master, but many claim the flavors are more intense than any cup of coffee you’ve ever put to your mouth—the New York Times remarked that pour-over coffee is "so clean, so round and fruity, that you can fully taste all those complex layers of flavor that are supposed to be lurking in the best single-origin and micro-lot beans."
If you’re looking for a more impressive gift, there’s plenty of choice—you’ve seen those shelves stocked with high-end, fully automatic espresso machines with built-in music players. But before you slide your card—did you know that a grinder has a bigger impact on the flavor of your coffee than the actual maker does? Consider picking up a high-quality grinder—a burr grinder, which is the best. A manual one will set you back $20-40 and the automatic is $100-300. Your lucky gift recipient will taste the difference.
Non-Essential (But Still Useful) Tools
Coffee is trending, and trends tend to pick up a number of accompanying gadgets along the way. Some of these are rarely useful (that backpack French press, perhaps), but for many, the hype is real. Quickly becoming a cult classic is the recent Aeropress, an inexpensive (just $25), mobile coffee maker with astounding versatility. For the espresso fan, gadgets abound: a decent espresso tamper is always a good stocking-stuffer.
Beans, Beans, Beans
Don’t forget the most obvious choice in your gift arsenal: gourmet coffee beans! These have a shelf life, of course, but that lends an exotic air on Christmas morning, surrounded by drills and socks and MP3 players—and they will definitely have the best fragrance of anything unwrapped.
When it’s all said and done, you could always grab a mug adorned with puppies. But why would you, when the choices have become so much more interesting?